Mount Triumph - NE Ridge (5.7) 


Sept 1-3, 2006. This page is in pink in honor of my cousin Steph :)

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Sept 1-3, 2006. Climbed by Lisa and Steph. 
You may notice that  Steph's version of the trip report contains the exact same photos as mine. Well, that's because I didn't bring my camera--she brought two, the crazy girl! The big fancy camera for macro and night exposures, and the smaller one for the climb. But I, being a rather avid armchair mountaineer, always think it's fun to read two people's different versions of the same trip report. So, audience members , enjoy both if you wish!

Climbing and backpacking are a bit of a family tradition. 
So, to understand the full scope of my Mt. Triumph climb, a bit of history. (Bear with me! It's a cute story! )

In the early 1970s, three sisters named Mary, Susan, and Barb set out on a backpacking trip. Susan, a recent graduate of the Tacoma Mountaineers Basic Climbing Course, was eager to share her enthusiasm for the "Freedom of the Hills" with her sisters.  Stopping for a rest break, the three young ladies were relaxing and enjoying the scenery.  All of a sudden, a young man came hiking along from the opposite direction.  He been out for awhile, and he smiled hello as he passed by. Susan noticed that he had a Christian fish symbol ironed on to his pack. "Hey!" Susan called, "Are you a Christian?!" (She was never one to be shy.)  Stopping, he turned. "Why, yes I am."  --His name was Marty, and he was from Illinois. It ended up that he had dinner with the three sisters, and exchanged phone numbers with Susan. And the rest, as they say, is history--the courtship, the backyard wedding, the San Juans bike trip honeymoon with bivouac, and the beginnings of a long and joyful marriage, with lots and lots of climbing!! Eventually Susan and Marty had two daughters, Stephanie and Jenny.  (Right: Sept 1981; Marty and Susan approaching Triumph to climb the NE ridge.)

--But wait! There's more! Marty had a good friend named Scott, who was his frat brother at Bradley University.  From an early age, Scott had been enchanted by the idea of Washington's mountains. Marty and Sue brought both Barb and Scott along on a hike, hoping that the two would hit it off. And in fact they did! Scott and Barb were soon married, and had two daughters named Lisa (that's me!) and Amy (that's my sister!).  

 Back to my climb report.  All spring and summer, I'd been talking climbing with my cousin Steph, who lives a mere 45 minutes away from me. Steph is an avid and skilled climber, and I enjoyed hearing her stories and reading her trip reports.  Yet, September was approaching and we'd only gone indoor climbing together, once! Since I had some solid  fundamental knowledge and experience thanks to the Basic Course, it was high time that Steph and I went on a climb together. After much ritual indecision (another family tradition!) we finally settled on Mt. Triumph. Yikes. That indecision. In my family, THAT is often the crux of a trip. But if you think Steph and I are bad, you should see our mothers in indecision mode! :)

The Approach.Ah yes, the approach. Many great peaks in the Cascades are protected by strenuous and/or unpleasant approaches. Triumph is no exception, although there are other peaks that are far less accessable (Challenger, El Dorado, Dome, the entire Picket Range).  We hiked in 5 miles on the gentle Thornton Lakes Trail, then followed a climbers trail to the high pass. This portion was about 2 miles, but took forever, like 3 hours! Argh! An impromptu Cascades bushwhack and yet another talus gully--my arch nemesis!

 High Camp. Gorgeous is all I have to say. We went over the high pass and descended slightly to a great bivy site. Some reports call this a "mediocre" campsite. Well, it's true that there wasn't much space, and we got water from puddles. But, unlike the upper campsite, this place had an amazing view of the Southern Picket range. I'd never seen the Pickets quite like this. Just seeing that jagged row of peaks inspired a mix of curiosity, dread, awe, and I don't know what else. I've read Michael Stanton's report of the Picket Range traverse several times... perhaps someday when I'm much braver and bolder?? 


Anyway, camping was great and really relaxing. I love climbing with the Mountaineers and meeting new people, but it is also really great to be on a climb with family. We've backpacked and hiked together a lot and we know and trust each other. We enjoyed two spectacular nights of stars. Bivy bags are the way to go in clear weather like this! Steph took some great night exposures, while I simply enjoyed waking up every few hours to see that the night sky had changed. 

 


The Climb. Right: Here, courtesy of Steph, is our route. I'd known there would be an Intermediate Mountaineers climb going on the next day, and there had been a party the day before us. But even though it was Labor Day Weekend, we had the mountain entirely to ourselves! Starting out at 6 AM, I quickly was introduced to the joys of cramponing on slabs and scree.  Reaching the notch, we roped up, donned our rock shoes, and began to climb! In retrospect, much of this climb could be simulclimbed. However, due to my relative inexperience, the majority was belayed. This was definitely a good call, because I'd only done one other alpine rock climb (High Priest, much less committing than Triumph). But I actually felt  pretty comfortable with most of what we encountered, so in the future Steph and I will probably simulclimb more. Steph is a much faster climber than I am, but she did a great job with staying patient, never pushing me to hurry or go outside my comfort zone. --But it is true that, in the mountains speed often equals safety.
 

 

 Class 4.5? We crossed the
 knife-edge ridge, and 
did a few fun pitches. Much of the climb was low fifth class (or, in Steph's world, "just exposed 4th class!").  Steph led the way the entire time, climbing with ease, skill, and confidence. The rock was decent overall, and mediocre in places. There was some heather, some not-so-bomber flakes, and some unpleasantly loose scree. We (well, mostly I) kicked down a few small rocks, 
but thankfully no harm was done. 

 

   

The exposure on this route was pretty awesome. I'm learning to like exposure--it has never freaked me out (like rolling a kayak does!), but I'm definitely getting to be more comfortable with it, and really starting to enjoy the feeling of being so high in the air, surrounded by wild peaks!  This truly is a fierce area of the Cascades. The silence was punctuated only by the roar of calving glaciers and the engine of a small airplane that flew by.  Few  have ventured to the areas we saw. I felt so small amongst these beautiful creations, and so in awe of their Creator! 

The Summit! We reached the top at 1:15, ate lunch, took some photos, and began the descent. After a long series of rappels, we reached the notch. Rope snagging can be a problem, although we had pretty good luck overall. Also, since we were on a single 60m rope, we often ran out before reaching the next rappel station and had to solo down 5th class! Yikes! Steph instructed me to tie into one end of the rope as I downclimbed, which served to bring the rope down and to gave sense of security, albeit a rather false one! Fortunately, I found downclimbing to be rather fun most of the time. I had a few sketch-out moments (and ensuing indecisive climbing!), but no real danger.  Left: I cross the knife ridge.  Below: me, on the summit.


The end! We reached camp before dark, content, pleasantly tired, and excited. "Look what we just climbed!!" Enjoying dinner (soup and oatmeal for Steph, tortillas/cheese and graham crackers for me), we made bets as to what time the Intermediate Mountaineer party would start out, read, and dozed off. The next morning, we awakened and had a leisurely time with breakfast and packing. Bidding farewell to the Pickets, we hiked out, passing many dayhikers who were on their way to Thornton Lakes. Yeah, I definitely like being a climber. Thanks, Steph, for the awesome climb! Hopefully we'll get to do more in the future!